Beware! What You Don’t Know About Target Food Could Hurt You – and Your Kids

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by Nindo Mom on February 19, 2011

Most, if not all, Target stores now have a cafe or other similar area–usually right next to an in-store Starbucks coffee shop–just as you enter their stores. These cafes offer customers items such as hot dogs, popcorn, nachos, cookies, brownies, soft pretzels, sodas, Icee frozen beverages, chicken strips, and maybe even Pizza Hut brand personal pizzas, pastas, and bread sticks. At the Target closest to my home in Southern Maryland, the target cafe also houses a small refrigerated area containing ready-to-eat items such as yogurt parfaits, sandwiches, and pre-made salads that you can buy and eat right there in the cafe.

My son and I have made a habit of stopping at our Target cafe when we visit the store because a few of the items are rather tasty, and the sodas offer free refills while you eat. But this weekend, I discovered a dangerous “surprise” in the item I bought for myself: it was the California Grilled Chicken Salad.

Target’s California Grilled Chicken salad has become one of my favorite cafe items to buy for myself while my son eats an all-beef hot dog (not one from the kids meal, because those are lower in quality–and frankly, they’re pretty gross) or some freshly popped popcorn (which tastes as good as the popcorn they serve at my local movie theater, but is much less expensive.) The California Chicken salad at Target contains about 4 ounces (yes, I weighed it) of chicken breast, a handful of walnuts, maybe a quarter cup of dried cherries, a quarter cup or so feta cheese, romaine lettuce, and a generous half-cup or so of creamy poppy dressing (more than you’d ever want to put on the salad).

Dangerous “Ingredient” #1 in Target California Grilled Chicken Salad

Today, because I wasn’t that hungry when my son ordered his bread sticks, I decided to wait until I got home to eat my salad. At that time, I tore into it happily, looking forward to enjoying this meal that I figured was pretty healthy (nuts, cheese, fruit, chicken breast–yum!). But soon after I started eating, I crunched down–yes, with a very loud crunch–on something that felt like a shard of glass between my teeth. A jolt of discomfort shooting through my head, I froze in mid-bite, they spit out what was in my mouth. I found the culprit pretty quickly–it was a shard of cherry pit that hadn’t been removed from the fruit. (See photo.) NOTE: Dangerous Surprise Number 1.

I ate the rest of my salad at a snail’s pace, cautiously biting each cherry and chewing ever so slowly to avoid a repeat incident. Although I didn’t come across another cherry pit–but I can say my enjoyment of what I had previously believed to be an awesome salad was culled more than just a little. Who can really enjoy their food when they’re afraid that the next bite could bring pain?

Dangerous Ingredient #2 in Target California Grilled Chicken Salad

Eating at such a deliberate pace gave my time to ponder something else about the California Grilled Chicken Salad that I hadn’t paid much attention to  on previous occasions: the quality of the chicken breast, itself. It seemed mushy, somehow–almost as though its method of cooking had been boiling, and that boiling had been overdone.

After I had finished eating the salad, I flipped the plastic bowl over that it had come in to read the ingredients–and I was shocked at what I found. The chicken in the salad had actually been infused with partially hydrogenated soybean oil. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides some information explaining the dangers of trans fats to the human body. One thing the FDA tells consumers is:

“As a consumer, the most important thing to know about trans fat is that it behaves like saturated fat in the body by raising low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol — which can increase your risk of coronary heart disease.”

It bothers me that I can’t buy a salad with chicken breast in it–such as Target’s California Grilled Chicken Salad–that isn’t what it appears. Before today, I had assumed that what looked like chicken breast was chicken breast, and nothing more. I never expected that those slices of chicken breast had been injected with harmful partially hydrogenated fats, as well as additional chicken fat. Especially when one of the reasons I go out of my way to eat chicken breast is because I want to eat a meat LOW in fat.

Nindo Mom Lessons to Learn

1. When eating out, look carefully at the food you are consuming. Be extra careful when giving food to children, being careful to look it over before allowing the child to eat–because the little ones can’t do this for themselves.

2. Always read the ingredients and nutrition labels / pamphlets for foods before eating – even when eating out at restaurants.

3. Consider cooking at home (from scratch) more often, where you have more control (and knowledge) over what is contained in the food you serve. Use extreme caution when using any mixes and other pre-made or processed food items–because, just like restaurant foods, they often contain dangerous (unhealthy) ingredients that you may not expect.

For more food-related posts, including numerous DELICIOUS made-from-scratch recipes, visit Nindo Mom’s food posts.

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